Paying for marketing, is it worth it?

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Small businesses often don't have enough money to pay for online advertising and any budgeting set aside tends to go on PR.

However, as your business grows online, you may want to start looking into investing in this area. When you first dip your toes into the crowded waters of search engine or social media marketing and display advertising, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. We've put together a short but sweet introduction into how you can try this out, without making too much of a dent in your bottom-line.

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Each site is different though, so make sure you dig into the varying advertising options they have available.

The big three

If you're going to pay for marketing online, there are three key things you need to identify

  1. Your target audience
    This means deciding who specifically is your advert for. This will help with every aspect of your advert, from where it lives to the words you use
  2. Your message 
    Decide exactly what you want to tell them. Do you want to introduce your business? Do you have a special offer?
  3. Ad destination 
    Where is your advert sending them? If you don't have a fantastic web presence to send them to, like a site or blog, paid-for advertising might not be right for your business


Fish where the fish are

It's an oldie but a goody. Through your market research, looking into competitors and starting to plan your social media presence, you probably know the kind of sites your customers visit – and some of them will have affordable options for advertising.

Don't just assume that the sites with the biggest numbers, like Google are right. It's all about concentration of potential customers.



Pay per click. These are words you will hear a lot if you start advertising online. This means the amount you spend on advertising to get a single click to your website, and is a model used by sites to charge advertisers effectively. Once you've decided when and where your advert is going to appear, you can decide how much you're willing to spend on a single click.


Experimenting with ad copy

Here's an example of how you can experiment with different ad options to see what resonates with your audience:

The business: Tilly's Shoes
Audience: With children aged 10 and under

Advert 1

30% off children's school shoes
Leather school shoes in Children's UK sizes 5-13, handmade in the UK
Tilly's shoes – Discount – Offer ends soon

Advert 2

Back to school time already?
Get 30% off leather shoes for your little ones, handmade in the UK, by Tilly's Shoes
Child UK sizes 5-13 – Discount – Leather shoes

Target, target, target

Sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter are getting more and more sophisticated when it comes to segmenting their users, which means advertisers (and you) can do the same.

You can choose certain criteria, say age, location, family status, and your advert will only show up in their feeds. That way you're not wasting your 'clicks' on the wrong audience.


Set a budget and stick to it

The funny thing about advertising is that when it starts to work, it's easy to throw caution to the wind and throw money into your marketing pot. This is why making a plan, setting a budget and sticking to it is vital. You can try different things within this, stop and start your adverts, if you need to, but don't write a blank cheque for marketing – it's all too easy to spend. The amount you spend is entirely up to you and what's right for your business. If you start looking into your options and find yourself priced out, then you might be better off staying out.

When you set up an advert, you can usually set a cap on how much you spend on it. This usually means that after a certain amount of people have seen it or clicked on it, it will stop displaying.

Building a great advertising journey

If you decide to take the plunge and pay for some advertising, you need to make the most of it. To do this, you need to ensure you have the right audience, searching for or seeing the right message and clicking through to the right place. With careful planning, targeting and copywriting, you should be able to get this journey working really effectively for your business.

Track everything!

If you don't keep a detailed record of how successful your ads are, how will you ever know if you should persevere with them? Use Google Analytics to track people clicking on your ads, and how they engage with your website when they get there, so you can keep refining your marketing plan. If you keep a really close eye on your results, you can also use this model to find out more about your audience. For example, you could run a couple of advert options at the same time and compare the results to see which your audience responds to better.

If you're not ready to spend money on advertising online, take a look at these fantastic free ways to market your business on the web.


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Last updated: over 3 years ago